X. Of Free-Will.

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175 Responses

  1. Some people think that this is just an academic discussion, one of those secondary issues… but not me. Often it is thought of from the point of how the person comes to faith – can he do it on his own or does God have to do the action.

    Your view on this point makes a big difference as to how you approach the unsaved. This goes to a question that AV asked last week – “does your pastor during the sermon have a time that he speaks to the unsaved who are in the audience?” My answer was no, because the same word preached to the saved is the same word that will reach the unsaved.

    But when you hold to a position of the unsaved having Free Will (then we will hear the chorus. “well, I don’t believe in a totally free will etc), then you approach them differently and you preach to them differently.

    Evangelicals preach and witness to the unsaved trying the whole time to give them enough information so they can make up their own mind. Evangelicals preach and witness to the unsaved trying to cajole, prod and in many cases guilt them into “making a decision for Jesus.”

    Now someone will come on here representing the evangelical position and say, “I don’t do that!” But that in no way invalidates my point – all you have to do is turn on the radio or TV or look to any evangelistic event and it is never about just putting out the word of God to the unsaved and leaving it at that, for God’s word to do it’s work – it is always “what do you think, do you want to give Jesus a try – take him out for a test drive?”

    This is the basis for Decision Theology – which to me is more erroneous and worse than Rapture Theology.

    Time to go out for the morning jog. 🙂

  2. “one of those secondary issues… but not me.”

    Just to make sure we’re talking about the same stuff…you are calling this a primary issue. Does that mean that if one disagrees with you that they are not in the family?
    Because that is what I would mean by primary, or secondary issues.

  3. Anyway, though, i agree with this article, but probably not with your interpretation of it.

  4. Papias says:

    This one is not a big deal to me, as it is mostly an in house, “family discussion” amongst believers. We spend time discussing the “hows” of our faith, and sometimes I think we miss the fact the unsaved need to hear and see the gospel, and yet it totally does not depend on me to do God’s work.

    My own daughter says that she asked Jesus into her heart, and I believe her. I don’t go probing into whether or not she exercised free will or if God drew her to Himself.

    Again, this is a family discussion amongst God-believers. Taken to either extreme produces wormology or a strictly emotional appeal to “come to Jesus.”

  5. Perfect, Papias!

    I agree with you 100%.

  6. First I don’t think that if anyone disagrees with me about something, that puts them outside the “family.”
    I think I was distinguishing it from pure academics, an issue that totally shapes one’s method of preaching and teaching and how one relates to an unbelieving world.

    Kind of like, “if you build it they will come.” – “If I give them enough information, they will believe – because really unbelievers just lack the info.”

  7. j2theperson says:

    So does God “turn and prepare” everybody but some people, eventhough they are turned and prepared, choose not to follow Him. Or does He not turn and prepare everyone.

  8. OK, that was better phrased. See, I do see this as a secondary, but very important issue. A primary issue, in my mind, would be something like Deity of Christ. If you disagree, you are outside the faith.

    NOW:
    “If I give them enough information, they will believe – because really unbelievers just lack the info.”

    I don’t think that is an accurate caricature. I think it is more that we see our responsibility is to tell, since faith comes by hearing…and how will they hear if no one is telling…etc.

  9. Em says:

    okay, i need someone more awake/smarter than i am to break down that second sentence this morning … please … i was doing fine until i came to “prevent” ?

  10. Shaun Sells says:

    God gives all some faith.

    God calls all.

    Christ died for all.

    Because of this no one can come to Christ apart from Gods calling.

    That is not to say that we don’t have responsibility to respond in the gift of faith with belief, to answer the call, or receive the gift of grace – just that we could not have done so without God doing the heavy lifting.

  11. Em says:

    if there’s a head count in heaven, a *whole* big lot of us will have come to Christ after one of those flailing evangelicals (who took seriously going into all nations to preach the Gospel) did his/her best “trying to cajole, prod and in many cases guilt them into “making a decision for Jesus.” … folks who didn’t have their doctrine correct and didn’t want to be numbered among the “frozen chosen” … God bless His children, each and every blood-bought, sinful adopted one of us

  12. Papias says:

    Kind of like, “if you build it they will come.” – “If I give them enough information, they will believe – because really unbelievers just lack the info.”

    I would agree with Josh. This is an inaccurate statement of the even the most “free will” position.

    Surely there is a spiritual dimension to to “free willers” theology? If you believe that there is a devil that would not want someone coming to Jesus, then at the very least, one believer should pray for another to accept Jesus?

  13. answered my own #9
    prevent = “2 archaic (of God) go before (someone) with spiritual guidance and help.”

    so, since i believe that God the Holy Spirit is the One getting thru to the heart and mind in all cases of God doing business with His creatures, i guess that i can’t agree with X – can i? – don’t think so – dunno

    “The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith;” yep
    “and calling upon God.” uh?
    “Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God,” not in and of ourselves … okay…
    “without the grace of God by Christ preventing us,” is that saying,develop that mind of Christ to will and do? okay
    “that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will.” hmmm – again is that God working in us to will and do? okay

    waay to much lawyering going on here 🙂

  14. Xenia says:

    I believe that free will is a gift to mankind from God which we are free to use to our benefit or to our destruction. It is one of the aspects of being created in the Image of God. Because of the Fall, mankind has broken its relationship with God but we still miss Him and yearn for Him whether we realize it or not. As St. Augustine rightly said, there is a God-shaped hole in our hearts that we long to fill. Since God is good and the Lover of Mankind, He calls everyone to repentance. He is not willing that any should perish. He sent His Son to save everyone who willingly says “Yes” to his offer of salvation.

    Mankind does not have unlimited free will. God will accomplish His greater purposes. His prophecies will be fulfilled, His plans will be accomplished, etc.

    Mankind’s free will to choose God is a major component of Orthodox theology.

  15. Nonnie says:

    Can any of us truly understand the mystery of the “whosoever will” and God’s sovereignty and that He certainly will accomplish His plans?
    I think not. I am happy to agree with Article X and that God so loves the world that whosoever will believe……….

  16. Lutheran says:

    Anglicans and Lutherans, among others, would make distinction between free will on the human level and on the “God” level. It’s common sense that on a human level, we have free will, at least to some extent..

    There isn’t one word in the Book of Concord, for example, that addresses horizontal relationships. It’s all about the relationship between God and man.

    On the God level, we don’t have free will. It’s God’s action. We respond, and if you want to call that free will, fine. I’m not sure it is. Maybe it’s semantics.

    As just one of many Scriptural examples, Eph. 2:8 says we are DEAD in trespasses in sins before Christ. Dead means dead. A dead person cannot bring himself or herself alive. The only way to experience life is to have Someone breathe it in to you. That’s the miracle of the new birth.

    Can you imagine being before God at the Last Day. Would you really want to say, “Well, Lord, thanks for saving me. And hey, I’m really glad I had a role in it.” Yecch. No thanks!
    God gets all the glory in salvation.

  17. I will give an example of what I mean. Does anyone here think that you can “convince” someone of the virgin birth? I mean that is the most non scientific, unbrained statement that goes against everything we know. So, no amount of information is going to bring anyone to believe it. How about a God dying on the cross to remove the consequences of bad acts of another person?

    Free will says that if a person reads it, he has a choice to believe it.

    But, the scripture does not say that – God must first give us the gift of faith – and only with that gift of faith can we begin to hear the gospel.and then receive it (like a sunburn, a person going into the sun “receives” the sunburn – does not accept it.)

  18. Xenia says:

    Free will says that if a person reads it, he has a choice to believe it. <<<

    No, free will says that if God calls you you have the choice to say Yes or No.

    He calls everyone.

  19. “He calls everyone.”

    So how does that eliminate my statement?

  20. Xenia says:

    MLD, maybe we are on the same page. Do you believe God calls everyone? If so, we might be in agreement here.

  21. Xenia,
    I believe that God calls all through the gospel – but I don’t think that individuals have the free will to accept it unless first God gives the gift of faith. Those without first having been given the gift of faith, might as well be hearing about the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    You have never witnessed to someone before – someone who is not hostile, but they just don’t get it?

  22. Xenia says:

    What I disagree with (and I think you might, too) is the idea that God has a list (for lack of a better word) of people He intends to save and has a list of people who, by default, He will not save. That completely eliminates free choice, obviously. But if you believe that God is calling everyone to salvation, then I’m with you.

  23. Xenia says:

    You know what, MLD? I think I agree with you here.

  24. Nonnie says:

    I believe that God says He would that ALL would come to repentance, but I also believe that without the grace of God, no one can come to repentance…come to Christ.
    Now how HE works that out, is beyond me.

  25. Lutheran says:

    “We are saved by grace rather than works, for we can give God nothing in return.for what he has bestowed on us.” Jerome, Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.1

    “These are the true riches of God’s mercy, that even when we did not seek it, mercy was made known through his own initiative.” (Armbrosiaster, Epistle to the Ephesians 2.4,4th century)

    “The fact that you Ephesians are saved is not something that comes from yourself. It is the gift of God.” (Marius Victorinus, 4th Century, Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.9)

    “The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift of God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity.
    Where there is true belief through true faith, true salvation certainly accomplishes it. Anyone who departs from true faith will not possess the grace of true salvation.”
    (Eph. 2:7, Fulgentius, On the Incarnation 1,)

  26. Yeah, I think we all agree on that for the most part. Terminology may be a little different, but there is very little disagreement between what MLD, Xenia, Lutheran, Nonnie, and I am saying.

  27. Lutheran says:

    “We are saved by grace rather than works, for we can give God nothing in return.for what he has bestowed on us.” Jerome, Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.1

    “These are the true riches of God’s mercy, that even when we did not seek it, mercy was made known through his own initiative.” (Armbrosiaster, Epistle to the Ephesians 2.4,4th century)

    “The fact that you Ephesians are saved is not something that comes from yourself. It is the gift of God.” (Marius Victorinus, 4th Century, Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.9)

    “The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift of God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity.
    Where there is true belief through true faith, true salvation certainly accomplishes it. Anyone who departs from true faith will not possess the grace of true salvation.”
    (Eph. 2:7, Fulgentius, On the Incarnation 1,)

  28. Xenia,
    The problem that you and I have is that the Calvinists and Arminians have been in control of the conversations, and the defining of terms etc.

    So, folks like the EO, the RCC and Lutherans (and I am sure others) have to try and fit our thoughts into their box.

    It’s like I said the other day, if forced to speak in Calvinism language – Lutherans are 1.5 pointers and 0% Calvinist.

  29. Xenia says:

    Well, now that we are all in happy agreement here so early in the day, what are we going to talk about?

  30. I don’t like having to confront things on the Calvinist / Arminian scale either. Both systems seem to have some obvious scriptural flaws.

    But I was hoping for a bit more of a fight than this 🙂

  31. I don’t know that we are saying the same thing – it might sound like it, but practice would prove otherwise.

    I do believe that doctrine directs our practice and that you can look at what one does to see what this person actually believes.

  32. Reuben says:

    Shaun, where do we find scriptural support for the concept that God gives all some faith?

  33. “it might sound like it, but practice would prove otherwise.”

    Like how? Without setting up a false caricature of my practice.

  34. Xenia says:

    We all seem to be agreeing that no one can have saving faith unless God initiates it. That seems to be the crux of Article X. It definitely does work itself out differently among different groups. I’m not agreeing with everything everyone here here believes on this topic, just the basic idea that we cannot save ourselves and that it’s God who gives us the faith to believe which is what I think this Article is talking about.

  35. Xenia says:

    I have really been the Typo Queen lately.

  36. Nonnie says:

    Amen, Xenia to your 34.

  37. covered says:

    Rueben, I wondered the same thing. In fact, I don’t necessarily disagree with Shaun’s view unless he is referring to “the, measure of faith God has dealt to each one…” found in Romans because Paul’s words were directed to believer’s. So, I wonder where “prior” to salvation, we have faith? Is Paul referring to what we hear as “saving faith?”

  38. Xenia says:

    If I say “evangelical churches typically do thus and so,” someone 🙂 is going to post that nope, he never does this so I will just tell of my own experience.

    When I was 12 I suffered from dreams about hell. Easter morning at my Baptist church I felt an uncontrollable urge to “go forward.” My exact words to my surprised parents: “I gotta go!” So I went. A few months later I was baptized in Lake Erie.

    Here’s what should have happened: Being as I was in an evangelical setting, there was going to be an altar call, no getting around it. But when I went forward that should have been a sign to the pastor to call me a catechumen and not a OSAS Christian at that time. I should have had at least a few months of “This is what salvation means.” Then after my baptism he should have laid hands on me to receive the Holy Spirit. In other words, the emotional getting up out of my seat and going forward should have been the very start of the process, not the sealing of the deal. I did make a decision that day- all adult converts to Christianity make some kind of decision- but I was left at the starting gate and told I had already won the race.

  39. I agree with all you said there Xenia. Should have been the beginning of the process, etc. I know Southern Baptist churches were on (some still are) a numbers kick for a while where the top goal seemed to be reporting large baptism numbers. Discipleship, maturity, growth…etc, was sorely overlooked. That is definitely a fault that we have tried to address, some more effectively than others.

  40. Xenia says:

    I should add that it was 40 years until what what begun that morning was completed, when a priest laid hands on me to receive the Holy Spirit. Until then I just limped along, not knowing for sure if I was saved or not.

  41. Xenia says:

    Josh, this all happened nearly 50 years ago. I don’t know what Baptist churches do nowadays.

  42. Many still do the same thing you described. Some have realized the error and are now making disciples.

  43. Papias says:

    1Ti 2:4 (NKJV) — who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

    Is 45:22 – “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I [am] God, and [there is] no other.

    Ez 18:23 “Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “[and] not that he should turn from his ways and live?

    John 3:16

    Rom 10:13 For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

    Not a complete list, but….

  44. The debate about will is always colored by a flawed view of faith among both free willers and reformed people. Faith is not an act of will. Faith is a function of revelation creating a response. Faith requires revelation and cannot be generated in the absence of revelation. Thus the bondage of the will people are not wrong to argue that decision theology is flawed … it is indeed. But the argument that faith is a gift is overstated in that the gift of faith is generated by God’s self disclosure. Frankly, I think we all strive a bit too hard for precise formulaic definitions.

  45. Another Voice says:

    Yep…What Dread said.

  46. Em says:

    well, i think 🙄
    does emotion move one to accept the Gospel? does running to God out of a fear of hell count as a statement of faith? i think so … Xenia, in all probability answered the prompt of God the Holy Spirit back there when she was 12 … and i do agree that should have been the beginning of her mentoring in the basics of the Faith, not a set aside as a done deal to flounder on her own; what are shepherds for anyway, but to lead the sheep entrusted to them? …
    does it hold water to say, “God has a list (for lack of a better word) of people He intends to save and has a list of people who, by default, He will not save.” ? of course not, but IMV “intend” is the operative word here …
    as someone pointed out, God is not *willing* than any should perish, but He, obviously, does *know* who will respond to the Gospel’s call, so does it make any sense at all, that He won’t arrange that they hear it?
    FWIW, i need lists, God doesn’t 🙂

  47. I agree with Babs also. Faith comes by hearing God’s word – like anything else, God delivers his gifts of grace (in this case faith) through physical means.

    Everytime someone hears the word, or reads the word God deposits faith into that person. It is with this faith that the person is able to grasp the gospel.

  48. Another Voice says:

    An excellent discussion of my two favorite verses on this subject, as found in John’s Gospel. Supports Dread’s comment about faith responding to revelation. Specifically, the revelation of the cross (gospel).

    Greek matters. God (through John) could easily have chosen a Greek word that would clearly support irrestible grace…but He didn’t.

    http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/trench/section.cfm?sectionID=21&lexicon=true&strongs=G1670

  49. My original point however, was that one’s understanding of will dramatically shows itself in practice – Hence Harvest Crusades for the free or unbound willers and no Harvest Crusades for those who understand the will to be bound.

  50. But, MLD @ 49, per your 47, God gives the person faith upon hearing…I agree. Now then, wouldn’t a Harvest Crusade make perfect sense, seeing that 50,000 people will hear at once?

  51. Josh,
    I agree up to the point of the purpose. If I held a Harvest Crusade, and I don’t so I probably have no standing in the conversatio, I would preach the gospel and dismiss the crowd.

    But those who look at people with an unbound will, think that those folks can decide – and that’s what they ask them to do – make a decision. What is Billy Graham’s radio show called? The Hour of Decision.

    Look on the Harvest web site and it will list the numbers of decisions for Christ for the past 20 years – at least title if “successful closings. 😉

    I tease, I am a great respecter of the work Greg Laurie does.

  52. But you agree that a decision must be made, you just say that God must first grant the faith to make that decision. I agree with you on that. I don’t do crusades either, but I see no problem with the “decision time” at the end. Sometimes it is abused and falls into that shallow “decision-ism” but it doesn’t have to be that way.

  53. If I said anything like “making a decision” I spoke in a sloppy fashion. I said earlier that the faith, given to us as a gift that we get through God’s word allows us to “receive” salvation – just as we receive a sunburn from the sun – we don’t accept it, we don’t make a decision for sun.

    I don’t want to hear -“well you DECIDED to go out in the sun” – it’s an analogy.

  54. Another Voice says:

    Everytime someone hears the word, or reads the word God deposits faith into that person. It is with this faith that the person is able to grasp the gospel.
    ———————————–
    Sincere question. What about people that hear the gospel repeatedly and never get saved? How is your view different from the unconditional election aspect of Calvinism?

  55. Seems like semantics. I bet at some point in your life, you “felt” like you decided to be a Christian.

  56. Lutheran says:

    Some of how people come to faith seems to be dictated by theology. If you believe you have to profess faith only as an adult and it has to be an experience, well, then altar calls and such make sense.

    Jesus did say we have to be born again. Where different churches differ is how God brings that about. I say that no matter how it comes about, there has to be teaching or catechesis at some point afterward. I remember reading somewhere that the majority of converts who ‘came forward’ at a Billy Graham Crusade had lapsed or didn’t go to any church a year later.

    Teaching is what’s needed. That’s why the liturgical Protestant churches like the one I belong to require people to go through a couple of years of catechesis. It’s not anywhere near as ‘sexy’ as going to a stadium crusade. But it’s cheaper. And from what I’ve seen in my years of being a Lutheran, there’s a lot of staying power among people who’ve been catechized. You should see all the saints in my church in their 70s, 80s and 90s. They’ve been going to church since they were baptized as infants and then catechized as young adults.

    Staying power.

  57. ” I bet at some point in your life, you “felt” like you decided to be a Christian.”

    Actually to the contrary – I always felt that I was changed into a Christian. I felt like I was on the outside looking in as other responded to altar calls.

    In my case, When Jesus said “you must be born again” I always figured that he born agained me.

  58. AV,
    I said this the other day – and it is the difference between Lutherans and Calvinists. We don’t know – it’s the Crux Theologorum: The Theologians’ Cross – it’s the theological question that cannot be answered.

    The Calvinist on the other hand does know the answer – because God is sovereign.
    The Arminian also knows the answer – Man is rebellious.

  59. Another Voice says:

    Fair enough, MLD.

  60. Using Calvin terms, we do believe in the first half of unconditional election.

    These are just questions and Lutherans are very reluctant to get into discussion of theodicy – God always comes out smaller when you give an answer.

  61. @ 57 – Hmm. Odd. Maybe God works in different ways, in different people.

  62. Josh,
    I don’t think I decided to become a Dodgers’ fan either – it just happened when I was 9 and went to my first game in their first year out here. 🙂

  63. Paul A. Lytton says:

    Forgive me for displaying my ignorance, but I am confused as to why there is ANY misunderstanding of what “Faith” is, or am I missing something?

    The dictionary definition of Faith is simply:
    1. Confidence or trust in a person or thing.
    2. Belief that is not based on proof.

    Does this not clearly confirm that “Faith” is obtained only by someone’s “choice”, to believe or not.

    Isn’t the choice that God gave us the choice to believe or not?

    Since we do not tangibly see God, isn’t our only humanistic method of a relationship with Him dependent on our personal “Faith”-”Choice”?

    God bless you all,
    Paul

  64. See, I did research for a few years…and then decided to be a Dodger 🙂

  65. Another Voice says:

    My parents baptized me a Dodger fan. I had no choice until I got old enough to learn of other teams and then I started rooting for the Red Sox. Never left baseball though.

    (Now I’m ecumenical when it comes to the Grand Old Pastime)

  66. Josh,
    The way they finished this year, you should have done more research. 🙂

    I follow Father Tommy Lasorda’s teaching on the great Dodger in the sky.

  67. AV,
    The Red Sox are a non baseball cult. – ask Bobby Valentine. 🙂

  68. Another Voice says:

    This was back in 1975, MLD.

    Besides, you of all people KNOW Valentine bleeds Dodger blue. He was a plant this year in order to make that trade at the end of the season. His work is done now.

  69. Lutheran says:

    Paul,

    The dictionary is not the Bible.

    Why not let God’s Word give you the answer?

    . Here’s a clue: read Eph. 2:8-9.

    Faith is a gift,the Divine Word says.

    If something is a gift, then there has to be a Giver. Who might that be?

    Got it now?

  70. Lutheran says:

    Hint: this Ephesians passage says who the Giver is.

  71. Reuben says:

    I used to get hung up on these things. Dave Hunt really laid the mind wash on me. Grudem, Packer, and Berkhof properly spoke scriptures without apologizing for them, or saying, “I see what it says, but this verse really means…”

    It is impossible to “find Jesus” unless the Holy Spirit draws. This is not a debatable subject. It is an act of God. Entirely.

    IMHO, clinging to “free will” as a means to either say you made a right choice, or that it is adequate to re-term free will as “responsibility”, is flatly rejecting scripture, and imposing a level of power on the failed human condition that never existed. Scripture is not silent on the condition of man, and the last weeks discussions played that out very well. We may choose to shift focus to other things, like love and peace and daisies, but without Jesus, we are trash. This is the first step to understanding the Love of God! There is no getting around it. There is nothing good in man, therefore, what God works through man, is really all the good that there could ever be.

    Free will… this scares me a bit now. It is almost claiming responsibility for what God entirely did for you. The Gospel message, as a result, and all preaching from that point on, is horrifically disfigured.

    I can’t imagine this is necessarily the case with EO, as the liturgy dictates the course of the service more than the me-ology can infiltrate the structure.

    When I see my own thoughts on this subject from only years ago, I cite verses like John 3:16 without realizing that these scriptures have nothing to do with free will, or election. Not a dang thing.

    It is convenient to be able to say that faith is will, but it does not exist in scripture. Free will is a philosophical argument, a form of spin. Does a man have strength because of his hair? When that hair is cut, is the strength really gone? When God moves on the hairless man, he topples buildings. Ergo, the work is God’s.

    “God loves us, therefore he lets us choose. Because, if you love something, you let it go. This is the nature of God.” Yup, I said those things.

    Who is this that obscures my plans
    with words without knowledge?
    Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
    Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
    Tell me, if you understand.

    THAT is the nature of God.

    My .02, and I am sure it is actually worth less.

    Good discussions today! Thanks again! Keep going!

  72. Reuben says:

    Or even worthless.

  73. Reuben says:

    The Lord said to Job:
    “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
    Let him who accuses God answer him!”
    Then Job answered the Lord:
    “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
    I put my hand over my mouth.
    I spoke once, but I have no answer—
    twice, but I will say no more.”
    Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:
    “Brace yourself like a man;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.
    “Would you discredit my justice?
    Would you condemn me to justify yourself?

  74. Reuben says:

    Then Job replied to the Lord:
    “I know that you can do all things;
    no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
    You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
    Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
    things too wonderful for me to know.
    “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak;
    I will question you,
    and you shall answer me.’
    My ears had heard of you
    but now my eyes have seen you.
    Therefore I despise myself
    and repent in dust and ashes.”

  75. This is what I see that to me sets Lutheran theology apart from the rest – it is very, if not totally pastoral. You will not hear a sermon about the sovereignty or power of God, as preached by the Calvinists. Everyone knows by nature that God is sovereign and powerful – but it brings no comfort, how can it? Just looking at creation you can tell that God is big, powerful and angry. So to hear a message about a sovereign God just let’s me know that he can squash me like a bug and it would be his just will.

    Also, you will not hear a sermon on what you should be doing for Christ as the evangelicals preach (and I am speaking after salvation) Good works just flow from the Christian, because that’s what a Christian does.

    What you hear in Lutheran theology through the preaching of the pastor, is that with all of your failings, Christ is for you. Whatever Jesus did for you to get you saved, he is doing the same thing today for you as a Christian, in his office as our great high priest.

    So, I bring this up to go back to the topic of free will, predestination, unconditional election and anything related – and again only the reformed talk this way (remember, Calvinism and Armnianism are BOTH reformed) So both when they speak on the topic are always doing so in a doctrinal manner – here is what you should know about God.

    So, when Paul speaks about predestination and election, to the reformed it is like he is giving a class on a topic of how people get into heaven – who is in and who is not and why.

    A Lutheran looks at Paul in his role of pastor – so when he speaks of predestination, election he is assuring his flock that, not matter what trials they are going through, whether from the outside or through their own failings their salvation is secure because Christ is for them, and Christ has been for them before the foundations of the world. This is a word of comfort.

    Back to what I said earlier, a sermon won’t be about the sovereignty or power of God, it won’t be getting out and bringing home the bacon for Jesus – it will always be about the mercy of God and that mercy is for you every time the word is preached and read and when the sacraments are properly administered.

  76. Em says:

    the ears had heard and now the eyes see … that’s my ponder for the night …

    Rom 11:5-8
    ‘So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
    But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.
    What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.”

  77. Paul A. Lytton says:

    Lutheran,

    Thank you for taking me seriously.

    However, I in fact am letting God’s Word give me answers. In (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    The following is how I read this:

    1. For by grace (Mercy) you (A once non-Christian) have been “SAVED” (By Christ) through (your) faith (Instead of through the Law):
    a. First of all, notice the period here. In this sentence this does not mean (to me) that Faith is not a choice of mine, nor does it say that my faith was given to me by God. It only states that we are “SAVED” by God.

    2. And this (Salvation); is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (In being worthy to God).
    a. Again this in no way proves that I do not have a God given right to choose, or not, to have faith.

    I fully understand that I can only hear the truth via the Holy Spirit but it is my choice to beleive the truth and have faith or not. This is not works. Works are a physical attempt to be worthy which can and does cause one to “boast”.

    Bottom line here is that I fail to see how this section of the Word is in contrast with my #63.?

    God bless you,
    Paul

  78. London says:

    I like free wi-fi.

  79. Em says:

    i really am pondering … and i am thinking that the deciding factor is one’s mental attitude when confronted with the Gospel (or any of God’s Truths) – without humility we just can’t learn from God – or anybody else, i guess … it says that God hates pride, does it not? why is that?

  80. Well, I must say that I really appreciate Paul’s statement above. It is not often that someone comes on here and forcefully confirms my previous statement – please see my #1. Paul has clearly stated the evangelical position. Man is free to do and choose what he wants – and the evangelical preacher plays to that free will – prompting, cajoling and guilting.

    As I stated in #1 – give them more and more information and you can get them to change their mind – just like an attorney does with a jury.

    So, in Paul’s great example, it is man, who if he can reach deep down within himself, rationalize with his mind, and muster up his faith, he can then believe the information presented to him… even if it is about a man/God who got hung on a cross and somehow that act absolves others of the consequences of their bad acts.

    See, that doesn’t take supernatural revelation or a change of spirit from an outside source, planting faith in you – it just takes being tough enough to believe.

    Paul, I think you are wrong, but thanks for explaining the position.

  81. Lutheran says:

    Paul,

    Respectfully, I think you’re practicing eisegesis of this passage, not exegesis.

    Did you see my #25? This passage has in the history of the church been seen as the proclamation that faith is a gift (of and from God) and that we can do absolutely nothing but accept it as the gift it is.

    I think you’re getting bogged down in minutia (too tired to find the right spelling) and are missing the bigger point.

  82. Another Voice says:

    As I stated in #1 – give them more and more information and you can get them to change their mind – just like an attorney does with a jury.
    ————————————–
    MLD, I’m sure you have heard many evangelical preachers say that you can’t argue someone into the kingdom. I said it just last night and on this one, I am not somehow Mr. Unique among evangelicals. I’ve heard it my whole life.

    Now…you may say “Sure AV, they SAY it, but they don’t then show it by their preaching” Well, as you know I don’t agree with all the tactics I see in the altar call world of evangelism. However, you are saying in this thread that faith comes (from God) by preaching the word of God. So what is your beef with giving an extended message, (or as you write, ‘more and more information’)?

    I don’t think I can argue anyone into the kingdom. However, if I am allowed to continue to share the word, expand and develop the gospel, for hour upon hour, I’m sure going to do so. And wouldn’t I be wise to do so even under the Lutheran view?

    Check out Paul (all from Acts but references omitted to avoid moderation)

    But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.

    And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

    For he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.

    Some believed and some did not in Paul’s efforts here. Guys like me have no difficulty in seeing why that would be.

    I think it should be noted that at the end of the day, your beliefs ended with a question mark. You don’t know why God brought saving faith to some and not to others. (Of course you are indeed certain you aren’t a Calvinist though 🙂 )

    And like I said above, ‘fair enough’. I have plenty of question marks about God and His ways too. Maybe some of my question marks aren’t question marks for your theology.

    But if your beliefs get to the point where you fall back on a question mark, then might it not be more humble to not be so hard on others who see in the same Scriptures an explanation?

  83. brian says:

    When I was in fellowship with in the corporation I understood it like this. First and foremost and way more important than any other doctrine or idea.God hates us, passionately and with eternal foreknowledge. All of our doctrines were derived from just how much God hated us, He created us, but he hates us, loathes us, The God loves us and died for us card was by all standards an canard at best to lure us in for a kill shot. For the most part I understood the “Gospel” as a strictly and I mean that strictly business transaction. All that emotional / Holy Spirit tripe had no meaning in fact it was disgusting to the true Economic aspect of God.

    There was a time I thought of us as a family. I have repented of such utter nonsense, I actually haven’t but I am trying. But from the cheap seats, it is not good news, it never has been.It is not much to ask for people to stop calling it that. Thanks.

  84. Paul A. Lytton says:

    MDL @ #50 said,

    “So, in Paul’s great example, it is man, who if he can reach deep down within himself, rationalize with his mind, and muster up his faith, he can then believe the information presented to him… even if it is about a man/God who got hung on a cross and somehow that act absolves others of the consequences of their bad acts.”

    That is in no way what I said.

    A person obtaining “Faith” does not, “…reach deep down within himself, rationalize with his mind, and muster up his faith…”

    A person obtaining “Faith” simply “NATURALLY” accepts the spiritual truth when it is heard, for what it is. Understanding spiritual truth is a natural occurrence to those who search for truth (“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. “Jeremiah 29:13) and have the humble childlike character that Christ is looking for.

    The reason the Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah was because they did not believe the “truth” of the” word”. If they do not believe the truth of the word, how could they believe in Jesus who was the “true word” made flesh?

    I pray that you are being sarcastic by saying, “…even if it is about a man/God who got hung on a cross and somehow that act absolves others of the consequences of their bad acts.”

    Again this is easily understood to be the truth because just as it only took the sin of one man, Adam, to cause all of mankind to be guilty; it only took one man, Jesus, to live an entire life without sin to save all others who believe the truth and chose to have “Faith” in this.

    I guess it boils down to what I consider my “choice” / “free will” is. I believe my choice is to believe the truth or not. Satan, “chose” to rebel against God. He “chose” to not believe the “truth”. God does not force anyone to be saved, He give us all the right to choose His way or to go against Him.

    Since I am obviously the one to be wrong here I will not say anymore unless I am specifically asked a question.

    God bless you,
    Paul

  85. Paul A. Lytton says:

    I meant MLD’s #80, not 50

  86. AV,
    “For he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

    I don’t know anyone who takes issue with this.Everyone should be doing this.

    Now a Lutheran would speak law at the unsaved person person so that the person would see their need for the good news of the gospel. When the gospel is preached and rejected, you don’t keep preaching the gospel to the person – you go back and preach more law – when the law eventually does it’s work, the gospel will be 100% effective… on it’s own.

    But this is what I hear from evangelicals – they preach a message and then they tell the people to the effect “you have heard God’s word and now it is up to you – to believe it or to just cast it aside. God will hold you accountable for your decision.” And this is what I meant in my #1 when I spoke of Decision Theology.

    In the case I just spoke to, the law has not yet done it’s work with this person, so that he would be ready for the gospel( if a person has not been convinced that he has a need, you cannot convince him of the value of the remedy), but what the evangelical pastor has done, was put the ball in that person’s court. How do you challenge someone to make a decision when the holy spirit hasn’t done his work yet?

    Again, this is a big difference between Lutherans and Evangelicals. Because it is the spirit’s work, through the preaching of the word, it is the spirit who converts – not someone making a decision. Hence, we never ask anyone to make a decision and do not even ask a person it they made a decision. Our theology is based on conversion by the holy spirit.

    An evangelical cannot deny the decision process – even without an altar call, the fact that decision making is even brought up is evidence enough of the theology behind it.

  87. I make no bones about it, I believe a decision must be made. Actually, constantly, every day we must make decisions. We must submit our will to God’s will. Period. Anyone who doesn’t try to follow God’s word will definitely follow their own nature. So yes, I must decide to follow Jesus, for salvation, and every other moment of my life.

    Now, I still believe that God is empowering me to make those decisions, but I can obviously choose wrong, because I do so all the time.

  88. Josh,
    I agree that’s what you believe – but you must agree with me that you have left out any doctrine of conversion.

    My point, I was converted by the holy spirit, through God’s word to be a Christian. It was not a proposition presented to choose.

  89. Paul,
    Do take my methods too seriously – and by all means, stick around and voice your thought.

    Look, here was the issue – you made a point that faith was not the gift, that grace was the gift.

    “Then you added words to clarify what you meant ” For by grace (Mercy) you (A once non-Christian) have been “SAVED” (By Christ) through (your) faith (Instead of through the Law):”

    When you designate “your faith” all I can say is that “my faith” is all self generated from inside me. As Lutheran said, biblical faith is generated from outside of ourselves.

    But, please continue on here.

  90. PP Vet says:

    The NT is clear that being saved involves an action: believe, call, accept, receive. Actions require decisions.

    Probably thousands come to Christ every day via teaching of the “decision” paradigm.

    MLD’s insights are thought-provoking although seem a tad trollish (designed to provoke indignation).

    As he has noted, truths are in tension, and yes, God saves us sovereignly as His Spirit moves in us.

    But also, as it is written: we believe, we accept, we call, we receive. We decide.

    Personally, I vividly remember the very instant I decided. How thrilling and how real it was!

  91. I was converted by the Holy Spirit as well. It did appear to me that I had the ability to reject.

  92. Josh – no one denies the ability to reject the gospel – except Calvinists. That is the default position of man – rejection of God.

    But perhaps we should discuss this issue this way.
    1.) are we actually converted by the holy spirit through God’s word?
    2.) Does the holy spirit work in us and then just offer us conversion.

  93. PP Vet,
    “Probably thousands come to Christ every day via teaching of the “decision” paradigm.”

    Are you sure? Was it really a decision on their part. “Thank you God, I have listen to your proposition and I will get back to you in the morning with my decision.”

    or is it more of an acknowledgement of what the holy spirit has already done in converting a person.

    No matter how you answer, my point all along is that evangelical pastors play to the decision making process.

  94. Re: 92

    1.) That’s a little different wording, but I think the answer is yes. I would say we are converted by grace, through faith – according to God’s word. Through God’s word? Again, I’m not sure about your wording there. But I think we agree.
    2.) It seems to be the case. You say the offer can be rejected, so that would seem to imply an offer as well.

    It isn’t explicit in scripture. We know that God wants all men to be saved, but then we know that not all will be saved. Why? The Calvinist says that God ordains that some will be lost. The Arminian says that the man has free will, and some will reject God. Most baptists, myself included, come down somewhere between those too.

  95. “or is it more of an acknowledgement of what the holy spirit has already done in converting a person.”

    This is the way that I usually hear it framed, yes, in evangelical churches.

  96. Shaun Sells says:

    Reuben at #32 – you are right, my memory mislead me. The verse I had in mind was Romans 12:3, which is clearly directed at believers.

    No time to stick around, but I wanted to correct my mistake above.

  97. “This is the way that I usually hear it framed, yes, in evangelical churches.”

    Now you sound like Obama giving an answer. Absolutely not – other wise there would be no call for a decision.

    I am glad that my wife is a life long Christian of Lutheran persuasion. When we were in CC and SBC it would drive people nuts when they would ask her, when she became a Christian and she would say “I have always been a Christian” and they would follow up and No, we mean when were you born again, and she would say “when I was 2 weeks old at my baptism.” and they would go nutty.

    In the women’s groups, when they would share their testimonies, my wife woulf say – I can’t, I was too young to know it.

  98. Josh,
    This is what I was talking about yesterday, when I said that our doctrine dictates our practice – this is why we baptize the way we do and you don’t.

  99. One last point then I have to drive to work. Doctrine is the reason Lutherans worship the way we do. Doctrine is why our liturgy is set up the way it is. Doctrine is the reason Lutherans preach the way they do.

    Your doctrine will determine your practice – so if your doctrine says that people need to be moved towards a decision – the practice will be carried out that way. Even check the songs that are chosen to be sung.

  100. “Absolutely not – other wise there would be no call for a decision.”

    I can send you a cd of our service if you like. Or you can keep throwing out exaggerated versions of what you think we believe. I have never…EVER…heard a baptist preacher give an alter call, and then say “Congratulations! You just made a great decision. That decision has saved you!” Never once. It is always framed as a response to the Holy Spirit, who is already at work.

    I agree that our doctrine dictates our practice…I just don’t agree with the doctrine you think I agree with.

  101. PP Vet says:

    In many cases, the decision paradigm characterizes the preaching that leads to the conversion. On that we all agree.

    Whether a decision occurred is a separate question.

    I am the creature of my own experience, admittedly, but it sure felt like a decision to me when I accepted Christ:

    The people around me were encouraging me to make decision.
    I was internally challenged over a decision I was facing.
    I agonized over the decision.
    I finally decided and said, Jesus, come into my heart.
    It worked.

    It was presented to me as a decision, it felt like a decision, it looked like a decision, it turned out like a decision.

    Per the trusty walks-and-quacks-like-a-duck rule, it was a decision.

  102. Another Voice says:

    Or you can keep throwing out exaggerated versions of what you think we believe.
    —————————–
    We should start a club, Josh

  103. Another Voice says:

    I go back to my earlier link on two key passages in John. (MLD does not like the language God chose to write His word 🙂 )

    God must draw us to Jesus. It is not simply human argumentation.

    The cross of Jesus draws ALL men – 1) so either all are saved, 2) all means all of the elect, OR….3) Jesus is speaking of what many of us here are talking about.

  104. Xenia says:

    I still stick by my “free will” statement back at #14, by the way, I just didn’t make it clear enough in that comment that I believe God does the calling and the saving.

    I believe all humans are hungry for God, whether they realize it or not and that we have the free will to feed that hunger with things other than God.

  105. Josh,
    I was not even talking about altar calls in particular. I am talking the language of the sermon. Now, I realize that what goes on in verse by verse churches is not a sermon, but a learning session – so perhaps we can leave them out.

    But AV said the other day, he stops in his message and speaks directly to the unsaved – as if there is a need for 2 different messages. I would assume that he is trying to get the unsaved moved towards making the proper decision after a life of making wrong decisions

  106. AV,
    I agree that Jesus draws all men – so what you are saying is that God has done his part, the drawing, and now it is time for man to step up and do his part.

    I don’t mind people holding a synergist position, just don’t try to flower it up and make it look and smell monergistic.

  107. But MLD, you think man can walk away from God. It is in practice the very same thing. We say God offers, man accepts. You say God saves, but man can leave it if he wants to.

    That is the exact same thing.

  108. Josh,
    Well that would make us different – wouldn’t it.
    Look, I am just trying to point out the difference and you keep clinging to “No! I’m just like you!”

    Embrace the difference. Besides, I agree that man can reject – I said it a couple of posts up – that is the default position of man – to always vote against God – that is why man is not free to decide for God.

    God decides for man.

  109. Xenia says:

    I want to make it clear that I am a synergist, not a monergist. I might have gotten a little too enthusiastic over the Kum Bye Yah moment of yesterday morning. 🙂

    But it’s God who does the saving.

  110. Xenia says:

    God decides for man.<<<

    That's sounds a little too much like "God decides which men he's going to save" and leads to the dire flip side, "God decides which men he's not going to save." But you (rightly) say Jesus draws (wants to save?) all men? Yet some reject Him?

    If God desires to save everyone

    If Jesus draws everyone

    Does this mean he gives a measure of faith to all men? If not, why not? When does He decide to dispense saving faith to a person and why not to the next person? What's the criteria?

    And if he gives a measure of faith to all men, someone on the human sides has to make some kind of a decision, Even people who were baptized as babies have to make a decision at some point in their lives to continue on with God.

    .

  111. Xenia,
    “Does this mean he gives a measure of faith to all men? ” Through the gospel. Those who have heard the word have been dispensed with some faith.

    But look at your questions. Do you answer these questions? I spoke to this yesterday, a Lutheran can only answer by what is spoken in the Bible. So, to almost all of the theodicy questions, we either say we do not know, or we just refuse to tread in.

    For each of those questions you answer, God comes out smaller
    God draws through the gospel
    God wants all to be saved
    Some respond – some do not.
    Why, we don’t know. But I don’t see human decision making in the mix.

  112. Xenia says:

    God is good, altogether good. He is loving, truthful, beautiful, humble, majestic, and altogether attractive. I do not understand the idea that no human would willing choose Him unless they were forced or given the supernatural ability to desire Him. He is desirable, not undesirable. We are fallen but not obliterated. We yearn for God and mankind is nostalgic for the Garden when fellowship with God was sweet and unimpaired. In His great goodness He calls us all to Him and we can heed the call or choose the ways of the world. We have a malicious enemy who is trying his demonic best to distract us.

  113. Another Voice says:

    But AV said the other day, he stops in his message and speaks directly to the unsaved – as if there is a need for 2 different messages
    —————————————-
    Yep. The ONLY message for the unsaved is the gospel.

    But most of the congregation is already saved. Now, MLD likes to misrepresent me as if I was saying the gospel no longer encourages and edifies the believer – which is a gross misrepresentation.

    But most of the Bible is telling us how to live like a Christian, AFTER salvation. The problem is too many preachers giving too many messages telling people how to live like a Christian, assuming they already are (and that they can obey in their own, unregenerate state)

    So yeah, no apology at all. You bet I teach the Bible and seek to apply it to the people as to how they can live, in the power and leading of the Spirit, and actually do the loving, forgiving, serving, giving to their neighbor God asks of us.

    And yeah, I tell those who might be lost that none of it applies to them until they come to the cross.

  114. Another Voice says:

    Of course, MLD says ‘loving your neighbor’ is fulfilled by buying a bagel – so the distinction and trust in the Spirit is not quite the same in his world. 🙂

  115. Xenia says:

    How does God come out smaller?

    He created us because He wants to interact with us. He is Who He is, the Creator of all things both visible and invisible. He is all powerful, everywhere present, all knowing. Nothing I have said has diminished this.

    If God wants to give His creation free will in some things, how does this diminish Him in any way? If, because He enjoys interacting with His creation, He allows us a certain measure of freedom that in no way makes Him “smaller,” it merely demonstrates that He truly desires genuine interaction with humanity.

  116. Xenia says:

    Ok, I do bleeve I’ve spent enough time on this topic. The mystery of salvation can never be answered satisfactorily and we seem to be at the “My God is bigger than your God” stage and from past experience, when a conversation reaches that point there’s nothing more to be said. (But I am sure much more will be said.)

  117. “Of course, MLD says ‘loving your neighbor’ is fulfilled by buying a bagel ”

    Actually what I say is that loving your neighbor is by baking the bagel. We show our love for each other carried out in our vocation. I think that the guy who has the gas station by my house showed his love towards me by supplying gas so that I can get to work and carry out my vocation to love my neighbor by providing financing so that my neighbor can provide housing for his family.

    Love thy neighbor is not just sending them a Valentine card. 😉

  118. Lutheran says:

    I believe in the doctrine of common grace. I think it’s similar to what Xenia is saying. It says that God’s grace is given to and experienced by all humankind.They’re blessings from the hand of a loving, benevolent and good God. God’s common grace is given to everyone. Things like marriage, creation, human and technological advances, work, and the human conscience are some examples. They show God’s continuing care for His world and His creatures.

    I

  119. MLD – I love embrace difference when difference exists, however when we are just playing funny with words, I like to point that out, too. AS much as you might like to be different than a bunch of common evangelicals, we are al saying pretty much the same thing, just using different words. For instance, look at the last paragraph of my 94 and the last paragraph of your 111. Pretty much identical.

  120. Em says:

    was going to comment on this thread, but why? praying

    that said, how does one know that God’s purpose in creating us was to interact with us? yes, from the day of Adam, God did and does do so … but i’m not sure that was His prime purpose in creating us … not asking for an answer, just pondering …

  121. Em says:

    that god void thing is an interesting ponder in itself – there are many physical and mental things that we employ to fill it – to avoid God 😐

  122. Lutheran says:

    I believe that God is good and benevolent.

    There’s a danger that by focusing too much on sin and darkness, that we turn Christianity into a type of dualism where the “Bad Power” has equal footing with God. That’s not biblical.
    There was a heresy in the early church called Manicheism that painted the world as much darker than the Bible says it is.

    I think believing in common grace is a great antidote to despair and the feeling that God is small and not involved with us. He is! In many ways.

  123. Em says:

    Lutheran, my grandmother advised me to steer clear of all things pertaining to Satan – her reason was that he is real, anti Christ and a treacherous adversary who wants to get into your head … to that extent, i think she’d say amen to your warning @122 … all we need to keep in mind is that “it’s dark there, don’t go there” … not sure i’m following your reasoning, but you did remind me of my grandmother this afternoon – thank you

  124. j2theperson says:

    ***For each of those questions you answer, God comes out smaller.***

    Theoretically, you might be right. But, if you look at the actual fruit of Xenia’s beliefs, you would be hard pressed to find someone who holds a more reverent view of God than does she. It seems to me that actual results trump theory and trumps semantics.

  125. Reuben says:

    9 What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10 As it is written:

    “There is no one righteous, not even one;
    11 there is no one who understands,
    no one who seeks God.
    12 All have turned away,
    they have together become worthless;
    there is no one who does good,
    not even one.”
    13 “Their throats are open graves;
    their tongues practice deceit.”
    “The poison of vipers is on their lips.”
    14 “Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
    15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
    16 ruin and misery mark their ways,
    17 and the way of peace they do not know.”
    18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    Lies?

    21 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness FROM GOD comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

  126. Xenia says:

    You know, Reuben, when two people disagree with an interpretation and one person says “Oh, you think the Bible is lying” or “You think God is lying,” I lose all interest in participation.

  127. Reuben says:

    Xenia, with mountains of respect, the question posed here is simple. How is it possible to contend that people would seek God and all his glory, when scripture emphatically states that this is not possible?

    I may be an idiot, and reading scripture wrong, and have no clue what I am talking about. I am always open to being wrong, and usually contend from the start that I am. I look at the scriptures and see a mountain of evidence that seems to state that without God, we would not even be able to “choose” God.

    I am open to any answer…

  128. Reuben says:

    How did I skip two whole verses up there?

  129. Another Voice says:

    Reuben, I think if you read throughout, you will see an oft-repeated statement about God revealing, drawing, showing Himself to the sinner (pick your favorite expression)

    I’m not sure who in this thread has made the claim that a sinner just wakes up one day on his own and decides to seek God. And certainly nobody has made the claim that anyone is righteous or without sin.

    In other words, nobody is challenging what Paul wrote in Romans.

  130. I am with those who think that people seek God because they were created in God’s image and that image though damaged was not obliterated by The Fall … (which I think is empirically obvious) Now as for the aforequoted passages conglomerated in Romans… that does not require the precise calvinistic interpretation that a human is incapable of virtue or good or seeking God because they are sinners.

    No they cannot free themselves from their sinful state but they certainly can flee to the redeemer when he calls …

    There is no one that seeks God is a lament not a theological anthropological construct of fixed reality.

    We really need to learn to read Biblical literature in a relational way… it is not a handbook like we get with out computer… it is prose and poetry …

    Calvin and his kin gloriously see God … for which we are all thankful but the explanations of God leave us wishing they had stopped with worship… sorry it just does.

  131. Another Voice says:

    XENIA – In His great goodness He calls us all to Him and we can heed the call or choose the ways of the world

    JOSH – It is always framed as a response to the Holy Spirit, who is already at work.

    AV – God must draw us to Jesus

    PP VET – God saves us sovereignly as His Spirit moves in us

    LYTTON – I fully understand that I can only hear the truth via the Holy Spirit…

    DREAD – Faith is a function of revelation creating a response

  132. Reuben says:

    AV, the idea in posting all that scripture is to point out this crazy idea that I have, one that apparently was shared by the council that wrote the 39, and again attempting to underscore a position, belief, theology, that it is simply impossible to seek after God under any strength of our own.

    So way back there at 112, “I do not understand the idea that no human would willing choose Him unless they were forced or given the supernatural ability to desire Him.”

    I (Reuben) do not understand the idea that I must have figured one day that Jesus would be better than serving myself. Scripture, again, seems to support the fact that it is impossible. So we believe that God intervened, overrode the human failings, and replaced it with a miraculous work, one that started a transformation and renewal of our hearts and minds before we even knew it was happening, and this provided the means by which we “choose”, were “elected”, whatever you want to call it.

  133. Another Voice says:

    In my testimony I did in fact despair of myself, of life and it’s meaning, and began to seek truth – willing to go wherever the search took me. Buddhism, Islam, whatever.

    I read the Bible and God saved me. No preachers. No church.

    Now, I fully recognize that God is the one to bring me to that search. I can share the still small voice that told me “put down that beer and pour the rest of the 6-pack in the toilet” (to Which I obeyed).

    To show me the vanity with which I was trying to find fulfillment in life. And to show me the truth that I was searching for.

    I believe my little testimony speaks to what Xenia and Dread were speaking about above – and I believe also to what the Scripture speaks about the promise to find the truth if indeed truth is what one is seeking. And God knows that too – whether your heart’s desire is for the truth of God, and you’re willing for anything, or you just want something else.

  134. Reuben says:

    BD, coming from a guy who is still not an angry Calvinist, nor have I even met one, and still willing to be wrong…

    “There is no one that seeks God is a lament not a theological anthropological construct of fixed reality.”

    Horse poop.

    “We really need to learn to read Biblical literature in a relational way… it is not a handbook like we get with out computer… it is prose and poetry …”

    So again, back to the, “I know what the verse says, but here is what it really means…”

    With similar mountains of respect, I am sorry, but I find that increasingly difficult to appreciate. I lost interest in “feeling” my way through scripture quite some time ago. I had to. Because it was teaching me what I wanted to hear.

  135. Actually Rueben … I urged you to think…

  136. Xenia says:

    Psalm 69:32 has people seeking after God:

    The meek have seen it, and are glad: ye that seek after God, let your heart live.

    According to this scripture, people do seek after God.

  137. Another Voice says:

    And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’
    ——————————————–
    Paul makes a rather strong argument here, to a bunch of pagan Gentiles, even using their own poets in the argument.

    All people…every nation…encompassed by God. That they might seek Him in hope.

  138. Reuben says:

    Let me try to explain where I am coming from.

    When I “found Jesus”, I was on the phone with my girlfriend, who had called me to tell me that her dad had just been killed in a motorcycle accident, and a pastor was there, and she explained that she had just accepted Jesus. I hung up the phone shocked and amazed, realized that this was real, and said, “Jesus, I believe that too.” Something like that, it was a long time ago. I was afraid I would die unexpectedly and would burn in hell, so this seemed like an opportune time to “get saved”.

    I was raised a preachers kid, and hated God because he owned my family. My Dad was perpetually at church. My mom was perpetually on the phone talking and praying for people. I was starved for attention and acted out in rebellion as a child to gain even negative attention.

    After I “got saved”, I got saved a few hundred more times, because I would slide, smoke cigarettes, lie to my mom, listen to Pantera and Ice Cube, watch MTV, and of course that meant I needed to get saved again. Then I would burn rock and roll tapes, burn horror books, and get my life straight again.

    It only dawned on me a couple of years ago that my salvation was based on me. If I did the right things, surely, God would save me again. If I saw enough kids grow up to be pastors and missionaries, I would be rewarded. If I grew a church to tens of thousands of people, God would take notice and love me.

    When people who did not change what scripture says got into my hands, I saw scripture in a whole new light. I saw salvation in a whole new light. I was 35 years old (or so) and only beginning to realize that I had it all wrong. I would always be bad. I would always be wrong. There was nothing I could do to make it right! Jesus died to cover that fact when I stand before the Father! What love is this?!? Romans 5:8!!!

    Now I am more than willing to concede one big thing, that God will grow people through Vineyard, EO, Calvary Chapel, Calvinism, Armenianism, even with all the theological mayhem, and land them all squarely in the arms of God. I will also concede that I am clouded by my experience. All of it shaped the way I process. I think that might be true of all.

    What I cannot (at this time) concede is that it was a choice. I know that I do not have the power within me to serve anyone but myself. Even “saved”, I served myself. Even as a youth pastor, I served myself rather than my family. I worshiped and served the created thing, the church, rather than the creator.

    So with humility, and since it is testimony time, the reason I love this article is because it is scripturally correct, and it released me from having to believe that I can “fix it”. God is in control. That is weight lifted that I cannot describe.

  139. Xenia says:

    These verses from Psalms (an amalgamation) are in response to questions in the first part of chapter 3 about keeping the Jewish law. Judaizers (the ones who, in Paul’s estimation, are not seeking God and who have become worthless, etc) were trying to convince the gentile converts of their need to follow the OT Law (circumcision, etc) in order to be saved. St. Paul really hated this kind of thing and strung together a bunch of OT invectives against them to demonstrate his displeasure. (Remember, this is the same kind of thing that got him angry at St. Peter.) (esp. note verse 8, which gives a clue to who Paul’s anger is directed.)

    Most of the problems that arise when understanding the book of Romans has to do with understanding what St. Paul is talking about over all. Overall it’s about how Christianity supersedes Judaism.

  140. Another Voice says:

    Thanks for sharing Reuben.

    I’m curious…looking back now and holding the Calvinist view you embrace today…

    1) Do you believe you were in fact saved at the time of that phone call? Or was it when you were 35 and saw things differently?

    Believe me, it is not a loaded question. I know you believe in the security of the believer as a Calvinist, so I know you would not think you were getting saved, lost, saved, lost etc. during those years.

    Genuinely curious…

  141. Reuben says:

    AV,

    Genuinely attempting to answer, I am leaning towards technical salvation happening when I was a small boy. I was baptized when I was about 8. But the struggle with “when” still lingers. Pelagian theology abounded in my life, before I even knew it had a term, and I was driven to works, perpetually failing.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, would not even attempt to do so, but for me, in a funny way, reformed theology, calvinism, election “saved” me from a life of perpetual disaster and despair.

  142. Reuben says:

    I don’t know how to answer that question.

    My wife was baptized when she was 5. She was genuinely confused about why she was asked to say a sinners prayer when she was 12.

    It is not that clear to me.

  143. Another Voice says:

    It’s tough I think for a lot of folks. (I’m a little simpler case but I tell people constantly that I have no idea what day or moment I got saved. I can give you a window of a couple months at best)

    Reminds me of reading the tesimonies of Luther, Wesley (both of them)…

  144. Xenia says:

    In my old life we were not expected to be holy, as the Lord was holy, even though the Lord clearly said this. It was deemed impossible and would ruin your life (“condo bondo”) if you even attempted it. The idea was to allow the Lord to sanctify you without any self-effort. Self-effort was considered bad. So without any self-effort I never grew as a Christian whatsoever, just became a bigger sinner with each passing year. The realization of this made me miserable.

    However, I now realize that in that environment it would have been difficult if not impossible to pursue holiness for a number of reasons. The main reason would be the lack of sacramental support. Nowadays if I sin I can get instant healing and a clear conscious by going to confession and receiving the Eucharist. These things WORK. They are not magic or superstition, they are the MEANS by which the Lord helps us grow. I now realize that any attempt to achieve any measure of personal holiness would be very difficult without the grace imparted in the Sacraments.

    So oddly enough, when I was told not to work at holiness, I felt burdened and miserable and when I was told it was ok to give it a try I felt unburdened and joyful. Likewise, when I was told I had eternal security I felt anxious and when I was told I didn’t I settled right down.

    Anticipated question: So Xenia, do you think you are holy now?

    Answer: Absolutely not but I see it as an ideal that we are all moving towards together and not something to be scoffed at. And I do know of some very holy people, of which I am not one (and they would deny it of themselves) so I know it’s possible.

    “Holy” doesn’t necessarily mean “perfect” or “sinless,” at least not while living upon the earth.

    “Self-effort” is a misnomer, by the way.

  145. i know that i chose to declare for Christ and i know the truth of the old song that goes,
    “I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
    He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me.
    It was not I that found, O Savior true;
    No, I was found of Thee.

    Thou didst reach forth Thy hand and mine enfold;
    I walked and sank not on the storm vexed sea.
    ’Twas not so much that I on Thee took hold,
    As Thou, dear Lord, on me.

    I find, I walk, I love, but oh, the whole
    Of love is but my answer, Lord, to Thee!
    For Thou were long beforehand with my soul,
    Always Thou lovest me.” Presbyterian and author unk

    that’s enough

  146. Xenia says:

    There’s that old chestnut that says the gate to heaven has a sign that says “Whosoever will may enter” but when you get in there’s another sign that says “Chosen from the foundation of the world.” That’s pretty good, I think.

  147. Another Voice says:

    Holy means ‘set apart (for God)’ – Inanimate objects and places could (and are) properly described as holy often in Scripture.

    Sanctification is the synonym. Saints are literaly “holy ones”

    And we are all saints at the moment of salvation. Holy ones. Set apart for God.

  148. Reuben says:

    Xenia @146, I would be happy to live with that old chestnut. I might desire to reverse the signs… 😛

  149. Xenia says:

    Reuben, I think you can reverse the signs and it still works fine!

    There was a time when I fretted over the whole predestination thing and when I heard this little saying my brow began to unfurrow, a smile returned to my lips and a cheerful tune began to play in my heart. 🙂

    And we are all saints at the moment of salvation. Holy ones. Set apart for God<<<

    And that's where I was taught to leave it. I was already holy (Ha!) and there was no need to make any effort to make what was positionally true true in fact.

  150. Another Voice says:

    Then you were taught quite incorrectly, Xenia.

    It’s the old past, present, future aspect to holiness (sanctification).

    Any evangelicals worth their salt should teach and encourage that.

    I have been made holy (past)
    I am being made holy (present)
    I will be made holy (future)

    All three are true.

  151. Another Voice says:

    I would add that the one who made that illustration about whosever may enter.., chosen before…(i.e. the old chestnut) was evangelical, dispensationalist H.A. Ironside.

    So sometimes my side doesn’t do irreputable harm. 🙂

  152. Xenia says:

    I am being made holy (present)<<<

    But this must not be helped along by any self-effort on my part! <— that was the teaching.

    Google Christian + self-effort and you will see what I mean.

    I do not believe anyone can make themselves holy. Again, it's cooperation with God. But it does require some self-effort.

  153. Well back to will and seeking God etc. I like what Jesus had to say in Luke 15 when he spoke of the lost sheep and the lost coin. No seeking and no effort on their part – in fact, if you look closely, there is no response on their part.

    The funny part is that Jesus seems to be the one who gets the credit for repentance.

    Salvation is that one sided. One minute we have our head down just eating the world’s grass and the next moment we are being carried into the kingdom – still muddy, dirty and bloated.

  154. Another Voice says:

    I do not believe anyone can make themselves holy. Again, it’s cooperation with God. But it does require some self-effort.
    ———————————————
    Of course!

    Serious question, Xenia. Were you taught that you were in the process of being made holy BUT that you had no part in the process? Or just that you got all the holiness you’re going to get in this life at salvation, until you die.

    As an aside – MLD just provided a textbook example of what I have been repeatedly teaching as to the point and purpose of a parable. It is to make a simple point, not to teach multiple detailed levels of doctrine, with each little detail of the parable having some deep underlying theological meaning.

    What was lost was found, followed by celebration. And these were spoken to the Pharisees who were not celebrating that the lost sinners were being found.

    (I just taught this, MLD – go have a listen. The whole chapter in 30 minutes – including the Prodigal Son)

  155. Xenia says:

    Were you taught that you were in the process of being made holy BUT that you had no part in the process? <<<

    That was definitely the impression I got. I was expected to grow in Christ but this was to happen as the consequence of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. "Let go and let God."

  156. AV,
    Why do I need to go listen – did I make a point that was incorrect?

  157. Another Voice says:

    If you think that Jesus spoke those parables to teach that we are like a coin just sitting there until God picks us up – then yes, you did make an incorrect point.

    Not that your view is wrong per se – but what is wrong is your thinking the parable makes that point in any way, shape, or fashion. It’s not what parables (throw alongside) were for…

  158. “that we are like a coin just sitting there until God picks us up…”

    But I didn’t say that – did I?

    The point is that neither the sheep nor the coin had any idea they were lost. The coin is a little harder to do, but let’s stick to the sheep.
    1.) He doesn’t know that he is lost – really doesn’t care that he is lost. -just like people!
    2.) Jesus is the seeker, not the sheep. This might be a good message for you some day if you want to give a seeker friendly message – you can teach that Jesus is the seeker and they are just dumb… well you get the idea.
    3.) The sheep did not respond to a call from the shepherd. We have no indication that the shepherd went around calling out Lambchops’ name. We don’t find anything that the sheep lifted his head at all

    And what is all this repentance talk – I didn’t see any repentance by the lamb – or could it be that Jesus repented the lamb? Hmmm

  159. Another Voice says:

    Xenia – that is an odd mix. I’ve certainly encountered plenty who deny any progressive sanctification, but the idea that one would support progressive sanctification while saying your role is to sit around and do nothing….weird.

    At the least, wouldn’t putting yourself where you can hear the word of God be helpful to that end?

  160. Another Voice says:

    You probably should listen, MLD – given your last post. 😉

  161. Xenia says:

    AV, I just wrote a muddled and incomprehensible post which I deleted. The fact is, I haven’t heard this teaching in over ten years and I don’t precisely remember how it went. I do know that when I became Orthodox, the message was radically different and very beneficial to me personally. I’d better leave it at that before I have my poor CC pastor saying stuff he never actually said.

  162. Another Voice says:

    Xenia – I try to mention Eph 2:10 as often as I do 2:8-9. 🙂

  163. AV, quite an attempt to shut down a conversation. But I have decided to change over to your view of the parable.

    1.) The sheep knew he was lost and was very concerned.
    2.) The sheep wandered the wilderness looking for a shepherd – Jesus was passive.
    3.) Jesus was calling for the sheep the whole time and the sheep finally responded to the call.
    4.) The sheep went Bah! Bah! Bah! all the way home to express his repentance.

    It was all there right before my eyes written in red and white – and I missed it. 😉

  164. Geez, I was just kidding, but your very first point about the lost sheep was that he was so excited to be found that he had to be carried back. LOL – I don’t believe it. Talk about reading the white spaces.

  165. Another Voice says:

    MLD – As I already said, whether what you have written is true theologically speaking is not the issue.

    My point is that you are using those parables to teach doctrine they don’t teach.

    Again, it may be correct doctrine. But it’s like saying the Chronicles geneologies is where to look to find the gospel.

  166. I am a little disappointed – you chide me along and I finally listen and you spent a total of 6 min. total covering the 2 parables.

  167. As per Rueben at 138…. No one asked you to concede that your Christianity is a choice… one more time I will try it… Faith is not a choice… faith and choice are not the same thing.

    As per Xenia at 142 AMEN but

    If Christianity supersedes Judaism then it follows that the NT covenant family supersedes unbelieving Israel.

    Jus sayin

  168. Another Voice says:

    EXACTLY!! Because they have a simple point that is repeated in the Prodigal Son, but expanded upon – (i.e. the only one of the three parables that uses people)

    (Plus, I was trying to get in the whole chapter…so cut me some slack) 🙂

  169. Another Voice says:

    Shutting down now MLD (and Xenia)..see ye later.

  170. Xenia says:

    If Christianity supersedes Judaism then it follows that the NT covenant family supersedes unbelieving Israel<<<

    I believe this, if you are saying what I think you are saying, that the Church is the New Israel?

  171. I am saying exactly what you think Xenia … with care

  172. Mark Steven says:

    you say it’s ok to “feel free” to disagree but do you believe your 100% right?

  173. Reuben says:

    What is the problem?

    [Edit]

    In point of fact, I said I agree with this article 100%. If you read this thread, which I am currently doubting you did, I am always willing to be wrong. I stated why I agree with this article, so I have one of two conclusions. 1, you misread me drastically. 2, you are a troll looking for a fight.

    I am open to all opinions regarding these articles. They help me. They force me to consider things outside my box.

  174. Reuben says:

    IOW, feel free to offer your opinion.

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